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The Baker McKenzie Global Climate Change practice expects 2020 to bring both scaled up developments and new challenges in a broad-based response to climate change.

Given widespread coverage of the shortcomings of last December’s climate negotiations in Madrid, it may seem counterintuitive to anticipate positive movement on climate action this year.

Yet, in our view, there are several reasons why 2020 promises to be a milestone year for climate action and for increased confidence that 2020 will see enhanced flows of sustainable finance and mainstreaming of climate change into all aspects of public and private decision-making.

1 – First, while it is true that negotiators in Madrid failed to agree on operationalising the new market mechanisms under Article 6 of the Paris Agreement, the talks did produce some concrete results that will likely pave the way for agreement in the future, possibly later this year.

2 – Second, the meeting cemented the role of the private sector as a key driving force for climate action. Rapid uptake of climate policies and targets by some of the world’s largest companies and investors is likely to be a key driving force behind what we expect to see this year, in terms of flow of funds towards investments with good climate credentials, and away from those with unacceptable climate risk.

3 – Third, an emerging focus on “nature-based” solutions, like forest protection and restoration projects, holds promise for communities, ecosystems, climate results, as well as investment outcomes. The Madrid meeting showcased “blue” carbon projects— efforts to use the oceans, rivers and wetlands to absorb and retain carbon dioxide.

4 – Fourth, popular concern about the impacts of climate change has never been higher. Greta Thunberg led a march of 500,000 people demanding climate action during the climate negotiations in Madrid, and only days later was made Time’s Person of the Year for mobilising millions in the global School Strike for Climate Movement. Extinction Rebellion’s civil disobedience campaigns have brought London to a standstill on a number of occasions. The ongoing bushfire crisis in Australia has galvanised alarm for the devastating social, environmental and economic impacts of climate change, and support for stronger climate policies.

While the negotiated outcomes in Madrid did not produce the level of ambition that civil society and many countries and business groups demanded, the halls of the conference venue were filled with countries and companies targeting net zero emissions. Increasingly, we are seeing a shared understanding that in order reach the long-term goals of the Paris Agreement, and limit global heating to 1.5 to 2 degrees, a clear pathway to net zero emissions by 2050 is necessary.

Finally, this year, we expect to see forceful and ambitious leadership from the United Kingdom and Italy, the hosts of this year’s United Nations climate talks in November. With high levels of support from governments, the private sector, and civil society, we think it is possible that negotiators will finalise the rules for new market mechanisms under the Paris Agreement by the end of this year.

Beginning with an overview of December’s meeting of the Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change—known as COP 25—this report provides a guide for what we believe will be the key trends and developments in 2020.

Notably, one of the trends is the “mainstreaming” of climate change into all aspects of decision-making, both in the public and private contexts. Climate policy and action is now relevant to decision-makers in all areas of government and business. We consider key trends in relation to:

  • New climate change laws around the world;
  • Commitments to reach net zero emissions by 2050;
  • Carbon markets;
  • Climate disclosures;
  • Technologies to watch; and
  • Climate adaptation, including building and financing resilient, low carbon infrastructure.

Please do not hesitate to contact us if you have any questions, concerns or would like any further information in relation to climate change law, policy and market practice and developments.



Ilona Millar is a partner in the Environmental Markets team at Baker McKenzie's Sydney office. Ilona is an environmental and projects lawyer with a diverse range of experience in domestic and international climate change, carbon markets, environmental law and policy, and a strong background in all aspects of water management, planning and projects. She joined the Firm in 2008 from the Foundation for International Environmental Law and Development, and International Institute for Environment and Development, in London. Ilona regularly writes, teaches and presents on environmental topics — she has lectured on environmental law, environmental markets and international climate change law at UNSW, Sydney University and University College London and for the past six years has co-coordinated the international climate change law course at ANU where she is a visiting fellow at the College of Law. Ilona's extensive pro bono work includes advising a number of developing country governments and non-government organizations on international climate change negotiations, and advising the Wentworth Group of Concerned Scientists on water and natural resource management law. She is listed among the best lawyers for Climate Change by Best Lawyers Australia 2016.


Paul Curnow is a partner in Baker McKenzie's Environmental Practice Group in Sydney and the head of the Asia Pacific Renewable Energy and Clean Technology practice. Paul is also co-chair of the Global Carbon Capture and Storage practice. He has worked for over 12 years on Australian and cross border transactions involving offices in many other jurisdictions, particularly in Asia and Africa. Paul is ranked as one of Australia's foremost energy lawyers, and globally as a market leader in climate change. He was named "Lawyer of the Year" for Climate Change and also listed for Energy Law by Best Lawyers Australia 2016. Paul is ranked Band 2 for Climate Change by Chambers Global, 2011-2015.


Graham Stuart is a partner at Baker McKenzie's London office specialising in product regulation and environmental, health and safety law.


Greg McNab is a member of the Firm's Corporate & Securities Practice Group in Toronto. His main areas of practice include financings of public and private securities issuers, investment management products, capital markets transactions, mergers and acquisitions and resources and energy matters, both domestically and internationally. He also advises on corporate governance, regulatory compliance, continuous disclosure and stock exchange matters for public issuers. Mr. McNab helps lead the Firm's Global and Canadian Mining Groups. Mr. McNab regularly speaks, writes published articles and appears in the media with respect to a variety of securities, mining and energy matters. He is a director and Canadian Chair of the Canadian Australian Chamber of Commerce. A former mechanical engineer, Mr. McNab is also the co-chair of the International Emissions Trading Association's global carbon capture and storage working group.


Sanjay Khanna is Director and Futurist of Whitespace Legal Collab, winner of a Financial Times Innovative Lawyers North America Award. The first futurist appointed to a global law firm, Sanjay advises senior leaders in business, government and civil society on complex twenty-first century risks and opportunities. A global megatrends and scenarios expert, Sanjay has been a strategy consultant to Insurance Bureau of Canada and Centre for Social Innovation’s Agents of Change: Climate Solutions Program. Ford Motor Co.’s chief futurist invited Sanjay's contributions to Ford Trends 2017 and Ford Trends 2018. Sanjay was a founding member of the Loblaw Food Council, launched in 2016 by Loblaws, Canada's food and pharmacy leader. His interdisciplinary background includes academic and industry collaborations in artificial intelligence and robotics; mobile and ubiquitous computing; ethics, law, future of work and smart cities; global health, public health and public safety; and disaster risk reduction, environmental and climatic change. Media outlets featuring Sanjay include The Globe and Mail, CBC’s The Current, The Lawyer, and AMA Quarterly, the journal of the American Management Association. Recently, Sanjay was a member of a global Baker McKenzie team advising Canada’s Expert Panel on Sustainable Finance on a pro bono basis.


Alexandra Carranza is an associate in Estudio Echecopar. She has been recently recognized by Legal 500 as an ‘associate to watch.’ Alexandra forms part of multidisciplinary teams for the financing and implementation of projects related to conservation schemes, and energy, mining, industry, agriculture and infrastructure businesses.


Sophie Whitehead is an associate in the Environmental Markets team at Baker McKenzie, Sydney. Sophie is an environmental lawyer who specialises in domestic and international climate change law and policy, carbon markets and environmental compliance. She joined Baker McKenzie in 2015. Sophie advises governments and corporations on matters relating to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and the Paris Agreement, including on their participation in the international climate change negotiations, engagement with carbon markets and the implementation of Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs). Sophie also advises on legal and policy issues associated with Australia's Emissions Reduction Fund and Safeguard Mechanism. Sophie advises corporations on environmental compliance and planning approval pathways.


Sharona Coutts is an associate in the Environmental Markets team at Baker McKenzie, with a focus on climate change law and policy. Based in Sydney, Sharona advises governments and corporations within Australia and around the world on legal issues relating to climate change, including policy, legislation, as well as legal risks and how to manage them. Prior to joining Baker McKenzie, Sharona spent nearly two decades as an investigative reporter, editor and executive, based mostly in New York City and Los Angeles. Her work spurred criminal investigations, legal reforms, and was recognised through professional accolades. She brings that experience to her legal work, providing clients with accurate, actionable products that are written in crisp language that is easy to grasp and use. She served as Associate to Justice Michael McHugh QC, AC at the High Court of Australia in 2005.